Written by: Terry Miller
The world in which we live is deeply divided by many things – wealth, ethnicity, religious beliefs – but one of the biggest dividers is between those who believe that ALL LIFE is precious and those who do not. Even in the same family and circle of friends there are people on both sides of the argument. Having the “life discussion” is often difficult for me because I am passionately pro-life. I believe that ALL human life is sacred, from fertilization to natural death, and that LIFE comes from our Creator who has made us in His image and likeness. Being human makes us unique and separates us from other living creatures. For those of you who also believe this, perhaps you too have struggled to have a calm, rational, heartfelt discussion with those who do not share these values.
I would first like to encourage you not to avoid having the difficult conversation about LIFE even if it is uncomfortable. When we do walk away from these discussions, we find ourselves constantly trying to decide whether to bring the question up again or leave it alone. Even when we decide not to engage, we often continue the conversation in our minds as we wonder what we could have said to get our point across. God wants us to speak up. He wants us to stand for truth. He wants us to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. How, then, can we engage with prudence? I would suggest that, with a little practice and planning, you can have a conversation that is respectful and truthful. Let’s look at some of the ways you can lead a positive discussion with a pro-choice family member, friend, or even an acquaintance.
- See the other as a Child of God
First, it is important to see the humanity in people. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which most of us have forgotten how to have civil discourse. When approaching the subject of abortion, it is important to remember that the person with whom you disagree is, in fact, a loving person. If we believe that all are made in the image of God, that means God created them to love and be loved. Even though they have pro-choice viewpoints, they are still made in His image.
Another important point is that you should avoid assuming that people who are pro-choice are cold, heartless beings. They often desire to love and support women, to give them freedom and to empower them to live the life they want. We share these values despite taking a different approach. We, too, love and support women, and we want God’s blessing and success for them. This is common ground and can be used to begin our pro-life arguments.
- Be aware of your demeanor
A kind tone of voice, a smile, and body language that signals openness can go a long way in softening someone’s heart. If an individual feels attacked, they will retreat. If he or she feels heard and respected, walls around the heart and mind start to recede. Saint John Bosco once said, “It’s not enough to love, people have to feel as though they are loved.” Humility is also important. Even though we are convinced of the truth in this discussion, being humble and listening will go a long way in reasoning with the other person.
- Keep the conversation focused
A calm demeanor is only effective if your words also have meaning. One of my favorite methods for pro-life discussions is Stephen Schwartz’s SLED approach. Through this method, you first establish that the fetus was created by human biological matter that came from the male father and the female mother. Once it is agreed that the fetus is “human,” you can use the SLED approach to walk through the argument.
S stands for size. Is it okay to terminate human life based on size? My 2-year old grandson is a lot smaller than I am, and many women are smaller than men, but we don’t consider them to be less human or say that it’s more acceptable to terminate them.
L stands for level of development. It’s not okay to terminate human life because it is less developed. My 12-month-old granddaughter is less developed than my 2-year-old grandson or myself, yet we wouldn’t say that it is more acceptable to kill her than my grandson, or him than me, simply based on our various levels of development.
E is for environment. Some may say that since the unborn are in the environment of the womb, it is permissible to terminate them, but in no other area do we say that one’s environment changes their value. We wouldn’t say that of someone living in another country, in the mountains, or in the desert.
D stands for dependency. Since the unborn are dependent on someone or something else, some say they may be terminated. However, by this logic, anyone on insulin or any other medication that keeps them alive is less valuable than someone who is not.
The SLED approach is an easy-to-remember, well-reasoned way to lead a discussion about the reasons to be pro-life. There are many other methods like this one. Some take more time to learn and practice, but you may find that one of these other methods help you to become more comfortable and confident as you engage in the difficult, but critically important, LIFE conversation.
Persuasive Pro-Life by Trent Horn
The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual by Angelo Stagnaro